When Worlds Collide
Sue B. is an accomplished native Kiwi with sophisticated taste. She has made her home and her garden in a dozen different places throughout the world. She presented Grace Design Associates with the ultimate challenge -- to create a landscape that would bring all of her favorite places home to Ojai, California. She also required that the garden be flexible enough to accommodate both intimate and large gatherings.
How could landscape designer Margie Grace integrate influences from the Middle East, Western Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean region and the local environs, into a cohesive landscape? Margie admits that, although the project sounded like fun, a vision of a garish Disney-esque "It's a Small World" theme park garden was hard to shake at first.
Early design meetings were spent teasing out what it was Sue wanted to include in the garden. "Pencil Cypress," Sue mused. (To her dismay, Margie deduced her client was referring to the Italian Cypress. "I was prejudiced against Italian Cypress. They were so misused in the Southern California landscape of my youth -- stuffed into places too small for them, and then later cut in half. They always looked out of place and out of scale," explains Margie.) "I must have Pencil Cypress! Lots of them!" continued Sue. "I can still picture them in the gardens of Iran!" Pencil Cypress it would be.
Subsequent meetings were spent determining what would be left out of the garden. "Nightingales! Oh, the sound of nightingales in the evening!" Sue reminisced. "An eighty foot long reflecting pool?" Margie ventured. "You know, like at The Alhambra!" Fortunately, reason reigned.
The end result was the perfect garden for Sue -- a collection of gardens, really, inspired by the gardens of the world. The near-acre of gardens includes:
A rose garden with a twist (copper balls top the posts which support the rustic iron trelliswork), reflecting Sue's great sense of whimsy and her love of roses.
A casual, flowing cottage garden with sweeps of colorful drought-tolerant native and Mediterranean plantings, an adaptation appropriate for the climate, reflecting Sue's commitment to live in balance with her surroundings.
A parterre-style veggie garden where Sue sows seeds from near and far, and a copper sprinkler/sculpture that sends water dancing over her herbs, reflecting Sue's nurturing nature and her well-developed sense of play.
A formal geometric garden, organized around a central fountain and embraced by two majestic arbors. The arbors shelter two distinct patios where Sue welcomes guests, hosting a wide range of events from intimate family gatherings to large fundraising soirees. Strong primary and secondary axes lead the eye to focal points and then on to the greater vista beyond -- the chaparral-clad Topatopa Mountains. This garden reflects Sue's love of elegance, simplicity, and beauty.
And, yes, there is even a garden bounded by a sweeping, playful line of no fewer than 20-some-odd pencil cypress, reflecting newfound flexibility in the matter of Margie's prejudices, as well as the gift Sue brings to those around her - a widened perspective.
Finally, like devout gardeners everywhere, Sue and Margie are already plotting the next project. It will be a quiet, contemplative garden; really an outdoor room to serve as a study. The garden will be situated down an inviting path, under the sheltering roof of the majestic live oaks, walled with cool billowing green. Under the cool, dappled light will sit a comfortable table and chairs, and an electrical outlet for a coffee pot and laptop -- a place for Sue to write her memoirs. The memories of a life fully lived, the life of an adventurer, a traveler, a pioneer, a woman, a mother, a wife, an activist. The life of a gardener extraordinaire.